Here we are, a drop in the ocean. But on our little rock we are also acultely aware of the environmental impacts challenging us, as they challenge other islands, countries and continents around the globe. Be it water pollution, plastics in our oceans, toxins in our food chain, the effects are globally widespread and we feel them as keenly here as elsewhere.
Until now I have felt overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problems facing our land and our oceans, which sort of paralyzed me into the mentality of ‘what difference will I make make, just one person’. But through my Jersey path to zero-waste I seem to be meeting and talking to more and more people who all think alike, and all want to make changes for our community as a whole. So each one person turns into a group of people, then a community, and so the movement grows.
One area which has blighted out beautiful coastline for the last few years is the sea lettuce problem in St Aubin Bay, caused in the main by nitrate run off. Whilst there is little I feel I can do about the sea lettuce problem, other than support local farmers who farm organically and stand behind environmental pressure groups such as Save our Shoreline Jersey, there are other ways in which I can take responsibility for the toxins I personally add into the watercourse – by taking a look at the household cleaning products I use at home.
Have you ever actually read the list of ingredients in the products lurking in your bathroom cupboards and under the kitchen sink. If not, take a look – I was genuinely horrified. Not only do we use these cocktails including known toxins and carginogenics to clean our homes, where we live and breathe, touch and smell, but invariably they are washed down toilets or in sinks – only to join with the other pollutants on our beaches and in our oceans.
For hands that do dishes, there’s a lot more going on in your bottle of fairy than perhaps you might realise. This article from the Ecologist is very enlightening! Behind the label – Fairy liquid. Luckily, in the island we have two well-known ecological brands widely on sale – Ecover and Bio-D. And whilst these are sold in plastic bottles this is one of the few real zero-waste options we have for purchase in the island – the Organic Shop on Stopford Road is a refilling station for Ecover and Bio-D products. You can pop along to them with your empty, clean bottle and they will refill it while you wait.
There are, of course, the home-made options too. These last few weeks I have been trialing home-made recipes for a variety of household chores with a view to reducing my plastics use in as much as possible, working towards zero-waste and being gentler on me and my home. I found it impossible to purchase large quantities of the three key ingredients in the island, and so reverted to Amazon* to purchase White Vinegar (here), Sodium Bicarbonate (here) and Citric Acid (here), but let me know if you can source locally!
White Spirit Vinear is a natural, mild, non-toxic acetic acid derived from the fermentation of sugar cane (or other ‘agriculturally derived’ products such as corn etc) to alcohol, then alcohol to acetic acid. As opposed to petroleum derived vinegars. Petroleum? See, who knows what actually goes in to our food!?? I remember the smell of vinegar from when my granny used to wash her windows with vinegar and brown paper. I trawled through a plethora of recipes on the world wide web, and found the majority of natural cleaners contained the same few ingredients, give or take tweaks to the measurements. So, much to my hubby’s astonishement, I have been cleaning with gusto as I try them out….
The window cleaner I finally settled on is made from 2 cups of warm water, 1/4 of a cup of white spirit vinegar, 1 tablespoon of cornflour (yes, cornflour!) and 10 drops of an essential oil of your choice. I used lemon, because thats what I had. I mixed the ingredients together in a repurposed spray bottle, sprayed on to the window then rubbed with a piece of crumpled newspaper. Once all the grubbiness had been scrubbed, I used a fresh scrunch of newspaper to wipe the surface dry and shiny. Very little effort, very impressive results. So far I’ve cleaned the patio doors, the mirror in my bedroom, double mirrored wardrobes and the kitchen windows. The only sticking point was the window right behind the kitchen sink – where I had to use a tiny bit more elbow grease, but I mean a tiny bit, and very soon it was also gleaming like the others. Non toxic, quick to make and for a fraction of the standard price. In this this way I can also keep reusing the existing spray bottle, not just throw it away and move on to the next.
Another great find was a mild detergent for use in the kitchen to clean down the granite worktops. Large amounts of vinegar isn’t a good idea on marble as it can corrode, so make sure you research your options for your own type of work surface before you go rushing in. I used a concoction of 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, 2 cups of warm water and 1/4 of a cup of Castile liquid soap, already laced with lemon essential oils. I sprayed the surfaces with the mixture, and then wiped with a damp cloth rinsed through with warm water. To finish I buffed the surfaces with a dry clean tea towel, as I would with a regular cleaner. Really great results – shiny, clean and fresh scent, and not one streak. Another non-toxic, recyclable option.
I even took on the oven and won (well eventually!). Part one of the oven saga was to fill a baking tray half filled with water and the juice of 2 lemons. I also threw lemons in left over from marmalade making. Pop in a hot oven for half an hour and once you’ve had enough of the strange nearly-burning smell, turn off the oven and let it cool before cleaning with damp cloths. This did wonders for the oven shelves, where the cake-on grime flaked off and easily washed away, but was no real match for the grime on the oven floor.
Part two of the oven saga involved spraying pure vinegar on the floor of the oven, then sprinkling on some bicarbonate of soda and let it fizz it’s magic for 15 minutes. A little bit of scrubbing with a scourer and warm water and it was done. Super clean. Huge, non-toxic win for cleaning the oven.
And then there was the matter of the gunked-up oven door. I was not convinced that there was any natural remedy that would be up to that particular task , but oh I’m happy to report I was most definitely mistaken. I added a small amount of water to some bicarbonate of soda until it formed a paste and then painted the door with it, leaving it for 30 minute to work it’s magic.
It failed. Well, not exactly a fail – but after two- attempts and lots and lots of elbow grease, this is the best I go to. Back to the drawing board, on this point at least! These ingredients were also awesome for cleaning the loo- sparkling clean and fresh – but you’ll have to take my word for it. I’m not sharing toilet pictures!
Phew! I’m glad those few weeks are over and I can relax back into my slovenly ways once more.
(*please note these are affiliate links – try and source locally – but if you do purchase through these links the blog is paid a small commission which supports its running costs